Ed Rendell says, “Almost everyone in Washington is a wuss.”
That might be the former Pennsylvania governor, a Democrat, being kind. His new book, after all, is called A Nation of Wusses.
ITK caught up with the ex-politician at a Wednesday book party held by The Hill Publisher Francine McMahon at the Capitol Hill townhouse owned by FedEx. Pennsylvania Democrats Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and Rep. Chaka Fattah were among the notable guests at the soiree.
Rendell explains the title comes from a snowy incident back in December of 2010, when despite no flakes having fallen, a Philadelphia Eagles football game against the Minnesota Vikings was postponed due to a blizzard on the forecast.
“It’s a metaphor for everything that’s wrong, in my judgment, wrong with the country. We’ve become entirely risk-averse. Think about canceling a football game. The very nature of football is that it goes on no matter what,” Rendell huffs in his gravelly tone.
While acknowledging that “everyone wusses out” when asked to choose the biggest wuss in Washington, Rendell replies, “The biggest individual act of wussery was Newt Gingrich, when Newt blasted the Ryan budget for what it is, radical right-wing social engineering … And the next morning he had an epiphany and decided it was a wonderful plan. That’s really wussing out.”
Rendell contends his pick for the least wussy of Washington power players might come as a surprise. He chooses Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) for supporting the Simpson-Bowles budget plan and standing up to anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
Rendell says it took him a year and a half to write the tome. He jotted the whole thing down without using a computer.
“We kept [all of the longhand pages] in case the cynical press might have thought we had a ghostwriter,” he says with a smile.
But he claims his hand didn’t tire from all that scribbling, “No, actually, politicians are used to signing stuff. My right hand is the strongest part of my anatomy, no ifs, ands or buts.”
For The Hill’s soiree, Rendell sported a coral-colored tie splashed with images of tiny lizards. The ex-politician, who says he’s not interested in running for anything ever again, noted, “I have another tie with turtles and one of my chapters is called ‘Behold the Turtle.’ And it’s my favorite saying in politics, it’s, ‘Behold the turtle, who only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.’ ”